Gundam is set to return with its latest TV anime series—Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury—after a seven-year gap since Iron-Blooded Orphans. The new anime will feature the franchise’s first female main protagonist, Suletta Mercury, in its forty-three-year history. Prior to San Diego Comic Con, the prologue to the new series had screened in Japan on July 14. Ahead of the series release in October, SDCC attendees had the chance to see the US premiere.
During the panel, Naohiro Ogata—the Gundam series executive producer at Sunrise—spoke to attendees in a prerecorded video. He mentioned The Witch from Mercury will take place in a new century, Ad Stella, and not in Universal Century. He hopes that this will bring new fans to the Gundam franchise, and thanks current fans for all their support.
The Witch from Mercury Prologue starts off with a training session involving Elnora Samaya in the Lfrith Gundam failing to clear layer 33. Cardo Nabo, the primary researcher, commands her to stand down as Elnora will be in danger if she continues to push further. A four-year-old Eri Samaya (Ericht), who is a younger Suletta, descends into the area to visit her mother. As Eri voices her jealousy of all the attention Lfrith receives from the crew, Dr. Nabo emphasizes that the Gundam is considered everyone’s child—and like a baby—needs special attention as it grows.
Suddenly, the focus shifts to a tense debate within the Mobile Suit Committee. Several montages reveal intergalactic protests against the Vanadis Institute Gundam research because they seemingly pose a danger to life. Although the original intention was to further develop GUND technology that would aid in human adaptation to the harshness of space, Gundams are now used as military tools and also pose a danger to their pilots. Delling Rembran, an ex-military Spacian, leads the voices of dissension within the committee and then secretly orders the neutralization of everyone at the Fólkvangr laboratory.
Meanwhile on the Fólkvangr, Elnora and her husband Nadim try to celebrate Eri’s birthday but her prosthetic arm suddenly fails. As she fixes her arm, Elnora voices her appreciation for Dr. Nabo as she would not be alive if not for Nabo’s research. Eri sneaks away to yell her frustrations at Lfrith when her father is pulled away by an important call. Dr. Nabo emerges from the mobile suit to console Eri and reassures her that the Gundam is an important step to opening a door to the future. She highlights how Gundams are adaptable bodies, rather than weapons, that humans need to survive in space.
Back to the committee meeting, the other members strategically leave representatives from Ochs Earth out of their decision. They plan on immediately cutting off further development and begin taking steps to seize the Gundam. A group of heavily armed men break into the laboratory and begin killing anyone they encounter. As the emergency sirens sound around the Fólkvangr, Eri’s dad makes the hard decision to get into the LF-01 mobile suit to fight back invading ships. During this violent encounter, Elnora finds Eri and tries to escape the battle using Lfrith. They overhear the committee’s dire message that all members on the Fólkvangr have been eliminated. But Elnora is distracted as she discovers that Eri is now linked to Lfrith and can now clear layer 33. The function of the mobile suit adapts to the vitals of the linked pilot, meaning Eri is exposed to any damage the mobile suit takes. Yet, Eri is unfazed as she shoots at the invading enemy suits. When they explode, she looks at the blasts with childlike wonder and likens them to birthday candles.
The high-spec suit, Beguir-Beu, eliminates the one other pre-production Gundam and begins targeting Lfrith. In a desperate attempt, Eri’s father pushes his Gundam to the limit as he tries to stop the Beguir-Beu from reaching Elnora and Eri. Although his eyes become bloodshot and his breathing becomes more intense, he begins to sing “Happy Birthday” to Eri as he fights the enemy mobile suit. She joins in with him, but he ultimately ends up cutting out as the Beguir destroys his Gundam.
Despite producer Ogata’s words, the prologue has the hard job of introducing the audience to new characters who may or may not appear in the main series. It runs roughly 20 minutes, which means viewers have a short time to become emotionally attached to a group of characters and catch up with the world building within this new universe. The music and animation are top notch, so expect powerful, intense mecha fighting scenes. Core themes—such as intergalactic war and dueling ideologies—are front and center. However, catching up to jargon and exposition makes it difficult for a casual fan to ease into this prequel.